Friday, August 02, 2019

Sing with the spirit and with understanding

Baptist preacher and Sacred Harp composer Henry Smith Rees wrote the following letter to The Musical Million journal. The copy I have is dim in a number of places. Brackets [ ] enclose words of which I was less than certain, and the ellipsis (...) represents a word on which I would not even guess.

COWETA CO., GA., Sept. 7, 1896
                Dear Editor: — The book and other musical matter came duly to hand, but owing to my absence from home at the time, and desiring to examine the book, I have delayed answering. I am still engaged in preaching and serving churches, so that much of my time is taken up in that way and off from home.
                As to the book—CROWNING DAY—so far as I have had opportunity to examine it, I consider it splendid, and a book of rare merit. I intend to exhibit and recommend it to my churches and congregations, and if possible, induce them to order a supply. I [have a thought that if your publications] could be introduced in this section they would supplant others that are being [distributed] to some extent in these parts.
                How you get up a paper of [such ... as] the MUSICAL MILLION for the price at which you offer it is somewhat of a puzzle to me. I regard it, judging from the past and the specimen copy sent me, as among the [best] journals of the day, and worthy of reception in any community or family.
                Through this section but little teaching of music is being done, save instructional teaching in connection with literary schools, and this often by young ladies or girls with but little experience. The most of our singing is learned or caught by the ear, and when such is the case the standard is [apt] to be inaccurate or imperfect. So you can infer that we have but little trained singing in this part of the sunny South. It is true that this is an age of much singing, but whether it accords with Paul’s admonition, when he urges to sing “with the spirit and with understanding,” is a question that should be seriously pondered. I think it well to sing for recreation, but let the music correspond with that end; but when the aim is praise, let it be done in solemn form, with an uplifted heart to God.
Yours fraternally,             H. S. REES.

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